Dir/scr: Madeleine Olnek. US. 2011. 75mins
Screwball comedy reaches earth in black-and-white in Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same. On a budget that could barely get you on the subway, Madeleine Olnek gets laughs and style out of interplanetary love.
In a year when Sundance celebrated the king of those movies, Roger Corman, Madeleine Olnek has found a place in same satirical constellation.
Codependent will be in demand at festivals for the gay and geek public. Theatrical interest will probably be for the arthouse circuit, but the comedy’s wacky black and white retro-aesthetic could give it strong international pull. Home video will also be significant for this odd but tender lesbian love story.
When three bald lesbian aliens are sent to Earth from Zotz to have their hearts broken so that strong emotions won’t contribute to destroying their planet’s ozone layer, one of them connects with Jane, a tender soul working at a stationery store. Despite difficulties dancing and expressing physical fondness, this odd couple falls in love.
Madeleine Olnek, best known for her shorts, directs her cast as if they’re in a hybrid of classic screwball farce and super-cheap early 1960s sci-fi. Her aliens, especially Zoinx (Susan Ziegler), face all the challenges of Earth with absolute anti-romantic deadpan.
Olnek’s script plays closer to the screwball formula. A well-meaning innocent who can’t find love ends up having it fall from outer space. Her glamorous blonde therapist (Rae C. Wright), a stock figure from the 1960’s, attributes it all to “a rich fantasy life.”
The cast here is as strong as the no-frills production design by Rebecca Conroy that creates its own parallel universe. Lisa Haas is the earnest lonely Earth-woman who trusts her feelings against overwhelming improbability. Jackie Monahan and Cynthia Kaplan are aliens who fall for each other, endangering the mission. Dennis Davis plays a CIA agent tracking the lovers who can’t stop talking, but who’s too dense to grasp what’s going on – Olnek’s symbol of the non-lesbian world out there?
Cinematographer Nat Bouman sets a shadowy spare tone for the space satire. Costumes by Lina Gui have the flair of a futurist vision that went out of style 50 years ago.
“No one I’ve had feelings for has ever returned them,” says a bewildered Jane when Zoinx announces that she must returns to the planet Zots, “I should have known you were from Outer Space.”
No-budget UFOs were the staples of the first wave of commercial independent films in the early 1960s. In a year when Sundance celebrated the king of those movies, Roger Corman, Madeleine Olnek has found a place in same satirical constellation.
Production company/sales: Madeleine Olnek, 1 917 587 7064
Producers: Cynthia Fredette. Laura Terruso
Cinematography: Nat Bouman
Editor: Curtis Grout
Production designer: Rebecca Conroy
Main Cast: Lisa Haas, Susan Ziegler, Jackie Monahan, Cynthia Kaplan, Dennis Davis, Alex Karpovsky, Rae C. Wright